Maximum Madness Kentucky Scherzer — known to most of you as “Max Scherzer” due to SEO requirements — has joined the elite sniper squad of the Texas Rangers for another bid at the World Series. How greedy can a guy get? Just like Nolan Ryan piling up all those no-hitters. Come on, Nolan — share the wealth! It probably makes sense that Scherzer joins the team that Nolan Ryan served as President and CEO for during the financial crisis.
Last week, I asked y’all to target Scherzer in any last minute fantasy trades. Although Scherzer was legit awful in July — like, top 5 worst starting pitchers in the league awful — his true skill stats looked pretty reasonable. We all know Scherzer is a playoff magnet. He’s got an opt-out clause in his contract and enough life left in his arm for another contract after this season. And now Scherzer gets to mentor a pitching room filled with the likes of [checks notes] Dane Dunning and Jon Gray. What a beautiful world!
Scherzer’s southward migration kicks off what will likely be a spectacular trade season. Some overbought teams — the Mets and Padres, for example — are selling to some wildly unexpected teams, like the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles…and maybe even the Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Twins…the list goes on.
Some of these trades will benefit your fantasy team: Scherzer going from a losing team (the Mets) to a winning team (the Rangers) is pretty nice. Unforch, the Rangers have only a measly three games against the Athletics remaining in the season. The remaining schedule is against a bunch of winning teams. Remember what I said about taking the easy games as they come early?
Some of these trades will, possibly, hurt your fantasy team. The Rangers have the division lead but probably don’t need a 6-man rotation (or, the 7-man rotation according to the veritable trove of accuracy that is RosterResource). So, who gets demoted to the bullpen…or traded? Fantasy teams that had been leveraging Dane Dunning and Martin Perez, your cheap sources of Wins just got tougher. Very likely, either Dunning or Perez shifts to the bullpen or finds themselves packaged for a trade. Especially with many playoff-bound and World Series-minded teams going to 4-man rotations — which will be especially feasible with Scherzer in the lineup — do the Rangers really need 7 starters (and former starter Spencer Howard in the bullpen)?
The biggest potential trade impact is, of course, Shohei Ohtani. The Angels are ostensibly still in the playoff hunt, with a calculated 13% chance of making the playoffs in some form. With Ohtani expected to command upwards of half a billion in salary as a free agent this off-season, and with none of that money likely coming from Anaheim, the Angels have every incentive to show the West Coast their superstar for the next 8 weeks and stay put. A wiser move for the franchise would be to have Ohtani on the trade block — how many playoff teams would kill for Ohtani right now?
MLB Trade Rumors says that Ohtani is off the trade market. They’re also the site that advertised for a bilingual Ohtani-specific writer, and when I inquired — you know, with my Japanese translation ability, book about Japanese baseball, and extensive WordPress experience — and they ignored me. Just saying — things change.
Justin Verlander is probably on the market as well, but the fireworks and fanfare for his departure are probably more calculated. Whereas Scherzer’s true skill stats are mostly in-line with his career norms, Verlander’s having the worst year of his Hall of Fame career. His K/9 is at its lowest point since 2014, his walks are above 3 BB/9, and his fastball hasn’t been this slow since 2016. Sic transit gloria. Verlander can probably find a friendlier place to play than New York, and a return to Houston would make for some fun Scherzer / Verlander matchups later this year.
Lucas Giolito went to the Angels, ostensibly proving that the Angels are in “win now” mode. Even though Giolito finished 2022 with an abysmal 4.90 ERA, his 2023 true skill stats are showing he’s a worse pitcher now than he was in 2022. Arte Moreno is out here playing with baseball cards while the industry is playing with Statcast. Gio’s a streamer for all fantasy formats, but the Angels have mostly a nightmare stretch toward the playoffs. They get the Athletics for two series, but after that, it’s basically a murderer’s row of teams.
Mitch Keller is playing around with his repertoire — he’s never really succeeded for this long, so it’s natural that he’s figuring things out as he goes. His fastball velocity is down but his swinging strike rates are up. The Pirates are out of the playoff race and Keller is under team control for a while, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Pirates dial back his IP to prevent injury. Just in time for your fantasy playoffs!
My hometown Minnesota Twins are somehow holding to the division lead while ace starter Joe Ryan is getting absolutely torched. Over his last six starts, Ryan has allowed…wait for it…13 home runs. Yeesh. Might as well send me out there. He’s also pitched against the Royals, Athletics and the White Sox in that period. Woof. Just in time for your fantasy playoffs! Ryan’s velocity is down a tick and he’s nearing his career high for IP…and it’s worth saying that he had basically never topped 100 IP in the minors before the majors. A lot of the great peripherals are still there — his swinging strike rate is insane, and his xFIP is nearly 4 points below his ERA for the recent phase, indicating a ton of bad luck has gone his way. The Twins will need Ryan to figure himself out if they hope to hold on to the AL Central lead.
As I loaded up the ol’ Whiffonator, I was surprised to see that Freddy Peralta had jumped into Tier 1. I miss him so! Over Peralta’s last 9 starts, he has a blistering 13+ K/9 to go with a reasonable 3 BB/9, and a tolerable 4.25 ERA. The ERA is tolerable because his true skill stats are way lower — 3.90 FIP, 3.23 xFIP, 3.13 SIERA. So, if we were playing the odds, Peralta would basically be doing a cheap impression of Spencer Strider. I bet you can’t get Strider at the fantasy trade deadline, but I bet you could get Peralta at cost. The Brewers are in the division lead, and Peralta and the gang have done the playoff thing before — he’s not going to crash your team.
As I noted last week, 1) I increased the noise threshold to make the rankings more aggressive, and 2) we’re running out of time where rankings matter. People love a good listicle, but deep fantasy leagues are heading into the playoffs in like 2 weeks, and standard fantasy leagues are in the playoffs at the end of the month. Rankings are fun to look at, but especially in playoff mode, fantasy players don’t have the luxury of a long timeline for ERA to align to FIP.